Early childhood professionals raise a cry of alarm: before 6 years old, the overexposure to the screens would seriously harm brain development. A link with forms of autism could be established. For now, the Ministry of Health is silent.
A health alert of a new type has just been launched in France. It concerns the impact of overexposure to screens on the brain development of young children. This unprecedented alert is now used by communication channels on the periphery of official institutions.
It was first of all a remarkable video made by Dr. Anne-Lise Ducanda, doctor of maternal and child protection of the department Essonne: “The screens a danger for children from 0 to 4 years”. Twenty-one minutes during which Dr. Ducanda launches, calmly, pedagogically, an essential alert. A video to share, to disseminate, in which this specialist shares his experience and makes the link with “Autism Spectrum Disorders” and “pervasive disorders of development”.
Addiction to screens, serious illness in children from 0 to 4 years old video:
Dr. Ducanda explained himself in the middle of May in the Figaro columns.
“In 2003, 35 children in difficulty were reported to me by schools on 1,000 kindergarten pupils in small and medium sections of Essonne. For a year and a half, I have already been reported 210 in great difficulty. Every week, I am asked for new cases. By dint of seeing, I ended up making the link with their consumption of screens. And I’m not talking about kids watching TV an hour a day! Most of those sent to me spend at least six hours a day in front of screens. The disturbances are more serious than fifteen years ago and disappear in the majority of cases when parents manage to “disconnect” their children.
“The screen is the pacifier today. Why would parents do without screens to “calm” their child when no one has warned them? They are reassured because their children only watch programs for them or small applications called “educational” to learn colors or English. They marvel at their ability and believe that the sooner we introduce babies to digital tools, the better they will be armed for the future. “
In their bubble
At the same time, several early childhood professionals contacted Dr. Ducanda to discuss their own observations and concerns. As the speech therapist Carole Vanhoutte (Villejuif), co-founder of the association Joue, thinks, speaks:
“In recent years, I see children from the age of 3 with less than a dozen words to their vocabulary. Recently, there has been a new slide with the arrival of little ones at the age of 2 and a half who are not at all in communication. They behave like wild children in their bubble, as if they were not in the habit of being in contact with another person. “
Then a few days ago, a group of professionals from early childhood (pediatricians, child psychiatrists, psychologists, speech therapists) sounded a cry of alarm in the columns of the World: The overexposure of young children to screens is a major health issue public.
“To worry about this phenomenon, to alert parents and the authorities? But of course, said Dr. William Lowenstein, president of SOS Addictions. We know that the earlier the first uses or abuses are, the greater the risk of addiction, whether it is alcohol, cannabis or sex workers … On the other hand, incessant neuro-excitation produced by its screens can only “wrinkle” the brains in a sustainable way. Finally, the screens instead of parents or nanny can only limit the development, the learning of otherness. It’s the same for falling asleep with the same films reviewed a thousand times. How to develop a free thought when it is always busy? Too many screens in toddlers are shaping a new human brain; a hyper-connected brain, but a dehumanized brain. “
A salvo of critics
The same phenomenon is observed in all other countries and prevention campaigns are beginning to take place. In Germany, they take place in nurseries to encourage parents to watch their baby; in Taiwan, fines of 1,400 euros can be imposed on a parent who leaves his child under 2 years in front of the screens. For now, despite the scale of the stakes, the French public authorities have not reacted strangely to the mobilization of professionals. Only Dr. Ducanda’s correlation between early overexposure to screens and “autism spectrum disorders” has prompted lively and critical reactions from some scientists.
“These findings are not as valuable as epidemiological studies. This PMI doctor is in contact with a fraction of the population that is not necessarily representative and draws general conclusions, said Figaro Franck Ramus, research director at the CNRS in the laboratory of cognitive and psycholinguistic sciences. It should not be forgotten that very high exposure to screens is correlated with the socio-economic level of families. We must also take into account the living conditions, the way parents and children interact. What is the specific impact of screens on development? It’s a question that is not easy to answer. “
Certainly, but who will answer? For their part, Dr. Ducanda and his colleagues want the launch of new scientific studies that could validate his track a link between the increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and the omnipresence of screens. In the meantime, they denounce the position of the venerable Academy of Sciences. In a notice issued in 2013 to the government, the government praised the merits of the screens on development without worrying excessively about the risks of early overexposure.
Four years later the government changed. Dr. Ducanda and worried professionals believe that there is now urgency. According to them, national campaigns must be carried out – avoiding conflicts of interest with the digital and audiovisual industry. It would be difficult to understand that in response to President Macron’s priorities on prevention, Agnès Buzyn, the new Minister of Solidarities and Health, does not make this subject a top priority.